The World of Plant Life

The World of Plant Life

The World of Plant Life

The World of Plant Life

Excerpt

The plant kingdom is more than a necessary background for the parade of the animal kingdom; it is more than a colorful backdrop for the drama of animal life. Plants are an integral part of the world of living things whose every member is a growing, feeling, striving individual which seems very different superficially from an animal but in reality is faced with the same vital problems of existence.

We are surrounded by a living world, unique in its ability to confiscate and utilize energy, to increase in size by growth, to change its activities and structures as conditions in the environment change, to reproduce other individuals like themselves. In all these abilities the whole world of life -- plant, animal and human -- is decidedly different from the non-living realm of rocks and minerals and their derived products.

Many of the individuals in this universe of life we take for granted as being necessary but unexciting adjuncts to our living. Many more are but vaguely understood though we meet them every day. And many, many more are unknown because we are so completely unaware of their very existence.

This living world is made up of two kinds of organisms, each of which has developed a design for living quite different from the other. One pattern of life is exhibited by the animal kingdom and has resulted in the great diversity of three-quarters of a million species; the other pattern characteristic of plant life has its own variety of some quarter million different species.

Since animals have so many structures and habits similar to our own, we are likely to think of them as being typical of the entire living world. But they are the specialized result of millions of years of experimenting with only one way of living, one pattern of existence. To be familiar with animal life alone is to limit one's understanding of the possibilities of life and to restrict one's appreciation of life.

Plant life is often enjoyed because of its esthetic appeal, but rarely is it appreciated in any degree commensurate with its vital importance in the beautifully balanced scheme of things, or do we realize how quietly and efficiently plants accomplish what many animals do so much more obviously. An elm tree makes no such fuss while it is absorbing sunshine, air and water with which to get its noon meal as that shown by a puppy lapping up its saucer of milk. The more one comes to know individuals in the plant world and the means by which they have adapted themselves to their surround-

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